Donkey assisted interventions: A pilot survey on service providers in North-Eastern Italy

Explore (NY). 2022 Jan-Feb;18(1):10-16. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2020.11.004. Epub 2020 Nov 17.


Context: Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI), which are generally defined as 'pet therapy', focus on the improvement of human health and wellbeing through a multidisciplinary approach and the involvement of domestic animals. An Italian survey conducted in 2017 revealed that donkeys were the third most involved species in AAI. Nevertheless, data on the main features of the providers of Donkey Assisted Interventions (DAI), especially in Italy, and their organisational models are scarce.

Objective: This questionnaire-based pilot study aimed to collect information about the features of DAI providers in the Veneto Region to have a general framework about the field.

Study method: In this descriptive mixed-method pilot study, we interviewed DAI providers through a computer assisted telephone interview. Respondents were selected by integrating data from the Veneto Region Livestock Database and from the Italian official register of AAI professionals. The questionnaire was designed following the advice from Equator Network.

Main outcome measures: Our outcome measures included the prevalent organisational system adopted by our respondents, main type of AAI programs, and users. Furthermore, we collected qualitative data about economic and income and respondents' personal opinions about DAI (strengths and weaknesses).

Main results: Data analysis revealed a heterogeneous picture of the DAI field with a prevalence of non-profit organisations providing mainly Donkey Assisted Activities to a large range of user categories. Despite the poor economic framework and low income from DAI, DAI providers were strongly motivated and spent more time and efforts in delivering this service.

Keywords: Animal Assisted Interventions; Donkey; Italy; Organisational model; Pilot study; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Equidae*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires